“I can’t help it,” we often say when we’ve cursed and used bad language. St. John Chrysostom has a practical suggestion: if you can’t help saying something when you get hurt, teach yourself to speak in thanksgiving instead of blasphemy.
But, you say, you are not able to be silent when goaded by pain. And I do not hinder you from speaking. But instead of blasphemy, speak praise. Instead of discontent, express thankfulness.
Make confession to your Master; cry aloud in prayer: thus your suffering will be alleviated, the tempter will be put to flight by thanksgiving, and the aid of God will be brought near. Besides, if you blaspheme, you avert the help of God, and cause the tempter to be more powerful against you, and you involve yourself the more in pains; but if you give thanks, you repel the assaults of the evil spirit, and gain for yourself the care of a gracious God.
But, you might say, the tongue often by force of habit lapses into speaking some bad word. Then whenever you are failing, before the word can gain utterance, close your teeth against it firmly. Better for the tongue to shed a drop of blood now, than that hereafter craving a drop of water it should be unable to gain that comfort: better to endure pain in season, than to undergo ceaseless punishment hereafter.
–St. John Chrysostom, Four Discourses, 3.7IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
How can I use Chrysostom’s suggestion to help me overcome my habits of bad language?
To you be glory, Lord of all, life of all, medicine of all, who have converted all the baptized, and by finding the lost have given joy to the angels who were not lost.
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